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A Dubious Balance

For most of us on the East Coast, this has been a long, wintry season to be sure. And I’m certain we are not done with weather yet, March having come in like a wee lamb. We are ready–more than ready!–for spring to arrive in the hills and the hollow places.

I follow a path that teaches me that spring arrives with the snowdrops, in the dark drear beginnings of February. I have learned that spring is still a terribly changeable beast and filled with chaos and longing. When I observe the Vernal Equinox, it will be as mid-spring–just as the Winter Solstice is mid-winter–and I will know I am halfway to Summer, at Beltane.

Most likely, I will balance an egg tomorrow, for fun. And I have a funny package ready to send to my daughter and her beau, to celebrate the season. As you can see from the photo above, the hellebores that are commonly called Lenten roses are blooming in the yard. The daffodils are blindingly yellow this year and the crocus are larger and lusher than in years past. Some things need a long cold rest to do their best work.

This balance thing, though…I think we get hung-up on it sometimes. Make it too important, an odd kind of goal with a load of (if you’ll pardon the expression) magical thinking attached to it. Balance always makes me think of an old-fashioned teeter-totter–a scary/delightful playground denizen that is likely to be considered too dangerous for today’s young ones. Equal weight on both sides keeps the teeter-totter both balanced and moving, something we also forget when talking about balance.  It isn't stasis. Balance isn't coming to a perfect place and staying there forever and ever, unmoving.

We are moving into the real working beginning of the agricultural year in the southern highlands of the Appalachians. I cleaned out my garden bag tonight and have been pruning, sharpening tools, sorting and buying seed.  I got broccoli in during the last waxing Moon and planted some greens.  I feel like an actor ready to step onto the stage.  What is that wonderful speech from Henry V?

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot! Follow your spirit…”

That is how the Equinox feels to me–as though I am leaning forward, into this rich and work-filled time. I am eager to leave the winter behind me and to get out into the world of soil and manure and food so fresh it is beyond compare. There is sweat in this season, and joy, and companions in the fields. For a few moments, I live in Hardy country–a land of magic and terror, of hares and ancient tended earth.

As we turn to face the confusion of the news feed–where is that plane?  how far will Putin go? can no one save the people of Syria? will no one help the water-poisoned people of West Virginia?–there is comfort in the simple homely acts of garden and byre, of tree and leaf, of propagation and weeding. It is holy work, this work of hand and back and heel of foot. It may be the holiest work of all.

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity Thursday, 20 March 2014

    Just the words I needed to hear today.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Thursday, 20 March 2014

    Thanks, wild woman.

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